In the second of our series about millennial CEOs, Lauren Blanchard talks to a software engineer whose experience witnessing his mother’s treatment in hospital inspired a practical yet powerful solution
After Jesu Obakhan witnessed the poor communication between patient families and hospital staff, he created TELM, a soon-to-launch care delivery app that allows direct messaging and updates between these two vital elements of patient care. This telehealth platform has the opportunity to fill a very large gap in the transmission of information between hospitals and families overseeing patient recovery.
‘I simply saw a problem with how poorly communication was executed between families and healthcare providers, despite having the same goal in mind – healing the patient. So I thought, why not try to fix that?’ explains Jesu Obakhan, founder and CEO of ByndeCorp and its collaborative care delivery app, TELM. ‘As far as my professional and educational background goes, I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot that is special or “typical” that qualifies me to be in this field, in terms of what you’d normally find in the resume of most health-tech startup CEOs.’
Founded in 2016, TELM is a messaging platform that allows patient families to securely communicate with hospital staff, receive updates on care delivery, and track vitals from their smartphone, allowing families to stay connected, even while away from the hospital. With a direct means of communication, relatives can participate in providing critical information that helps medical teams to tailor healthcare delivery to support more positive recovery outcomes, while providing a more customised care delivery experience for patients.
Broken communication in the healthcare system
Obakhan comes from a background in software development, not healthcare itself, but creating TELM was driven by personal experiences when his mother was diagnosed with kidney failure four years ago. ‘It was the most difficult thing to watch her livelihood, spirit, and physical abilities deteriorate,’ he reveals.
Along with the trauma of his mother struggling through dialysis, being repeatedly admitted to the hospital, and several near-death experiences, Obakhan and his family additionally struggled with the misinformation that often occurs between doctors and patient families. ‘The way we handle communication in the healthcare system today is a bit of a tragedy, and poses some serious, unnecessary risks.’ He references as an example the nursing staff being uninformed that her doctor ordered a soft food-only diet, because of his mother’s inability to swallow solid food, as a precaution to prevent the risk of choking. Despite the order being in his mother’s file, on several occasions she was served meals that included chicken and corn. ‘That was a glaring gap for me, seeing something go wrong and not being sure that if I told one person about the mistake, that it would reach everyone providing care for my mum. I continually worried about her wellbeing. Our team believes that is one way TELM will save lives and prevent disaster,’ says Obakhan. ‘Missing something so seemingly small could’ve prematurely caused her death, and serious legal complications for the hospital treating her.’
Other lost opportunities in the healthcare system became clear to Obakhan, such as the patient family’s ability to provide critical triage information to doctors and hospital staff. When his mother was hospitalised for the second time in 2014, the hospital team had trouble diagnosing her newest complication on the little information they could glean on their own. As her condition worsened Obakhan and his family raced to gather as much information as possible about his mother’s habits, things she ate, and prior medical history to help speed along diagnosis, ultimately leading doctors to the cause of her ailment. In a matter of days, Obakhan’s mother came out of her coma and recuperated. ‘This was kind of a big deal, changing the outcome of mum’s situation as her doctors originally feared that this time she was close to death and that the family “should be prepared”. It was at that point that I realised medical teams and patients were at a huge disadvantage by not having patient families involved as advisers through the care delivery process. This had to change.’
Building a more effective care connection
The doctor-patient relationship has always been considered the most effective collaborative care connection in healthcare delivery but, in 2013, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (H-CUP) found that the rate of all-cause readmission after 30-days in the USA is 13.9 per cent. As a significant portion of these patients are on Medicare, this can account for $15 billion dollars in government spending each year and high penalties for hospitals.
And these readmission rates only account for the first 30-days after discharge. After that, other factors are more deeply involved in the patient’s health, including the care they are being provided at home. ‘The patient family is the most effective partner and asset which exists on both sides of the hospital door; while the patient is in-care and then recovery at home,’ Obakhan points out. ‘They are the most valuable team member in healthcare, but are incredibly under-utilised.’
After interviewing doctors, nursing staff, and patients in outpatient recovery, Obakhan found that by expanding the scope of information sharing, and making it more transaction-based, there could be a direct impact on readmission rates and recovery outcomes through what he calls a ‘Collaborative Crowd-Care Model’. The doctor-patient relationship would extend to a doctor-patient-family relationship, in which relatives are treated as an extension or additional agents of the hospital staff and team, extending visibility into patient recovery beyond the hospital and into the home.
A digital solution
As a problem solver, Obakhan and his team sought a way to answer very common challenges using technology, and created a digital solution to bridge the communication gap between hospitals and patient families. TELM functions primarily as a smartphone app, but also incorporates small telemetry sensors to track patient vitals. Notification of daily care activity, such as meal approval, hygiene, and scheduled procedures, help families stay involved, contribute, and coordinate activities, such as appointments with medical teams, providing a more informed and stress-free experience.
The app also takes a robust approach towards protecting patient privacy under the HIPAA law by using custom algorithms to moderate information it shares. The technology ensures that the patient’s private care details are not shared with the family, or passed along outside of the family network. For example, if the patient is administered an HIV test, the messaging system locates key words such as ‘HIV test’ and inserts more nondescript language such as ‘blood testing @ 8:00 am’ in order to prevent sharing private patient care details. In fact, a number of innovations built into the TELM app are focused towards ensuring patient privacy and compliance with the HIPAA laws, which potentially resolves one of the biggest challenges around information sharing technology in healthcare.
TELM will launch this June as a pilot with one partner hospital site, and has plans to expand to over thirty hospital sites in the Southeast US by the end of the year. Obakhan and his team plan to drive the healthcare industry towards their collaborative care model and believe the technology will have a positive effect in care and recovery outcomes, all while improving the patient’s and relatives’ experiences.
Original article by MedTech Engine
Images pulled from original article